The Color of Paradise

             Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi has come to specialize in crafting
     beautifully realized fables centered on youngsters. Following his
     Oscar-nominated
The Children of Heaven which was uncharacteristically
     set in an urban environment, the director has returned to the more pastoral
     images that filled his first two features with
The Color of Paradise. Once
     again Majidi has built a film around a particularly sensitive young boy, in
     this case played with amazing skill and grace by nonprofessional Moshen
     Ramezani.

             The film opens with children at a school for the blind getting ready
     to return home at the end of term. Mohammed (Ramezani), is a
     good-natured, sweet child who is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his father
     (Hossein Mahjur). Because his other senses are more acute, he is able
     to sense a cat approaching a baby bird that has fallen from its nest. After
     shooing away the feline, Mohammed carefully retrieves the bird and
     shimmies up the tree to replace it gently in its natural environment. His
     father, however, doesn't arrive until the next day and when he does arrive,
     it becomes clear he considers his son a burden. (Later, it is revealed he is
     negotiating to marry and has not even acknowledged he has a
     handicapped son to his prospective bride or her family.)

             When Mohammed returns to his home in the countryside, he is
     reunited with his sisters and his beloved grandmother. Majidi captures the
     beauty of rural Iran, the lush greenery, the colorful wildflowers. Even
     though he cannot see this beauty, Mohammed literally can "see" it via
     his other senses, most notably by touch. He is constantly reaching out
     to feel the world around him, whether it is a blade of grass or his
     grandmother's careworn face and calloused hands. This juxtaposition of
     a blind child surrounded by so much natural wonder makes for
     heartbreaking images.

             The film's slight plot revolves around his father's efforts to find a
     place for Mohammed, including apprenticing him to a blind carpenter
     over his grandmother's objections. Once separated from his family, the
     youngster emotionally rails at God, crying out for an explanation as to
     why he was born without sight. It is one of the most moving moments
     in the film and one that should leave only the stone-hearted dry-eyed.

             The strength of Majidi's best work lies in the simplicity of the
     stories. He relies on the images and the talents of his casts (a mix of
     professionals and nonprofessionals) to explore the human condition.
      The Color of Paradise mixes the triumph of Mohammed over his physical
     blindness (he proves a gifted and willing student) and the confinement
     of the spiritual blindness of his father, a hardworking, well meaning, if
     somewhat misguided, man. Both ultimately pay a high price for their
     handicaps, a fee that Majidi suggests leads each to find that
     Color of Paradise.


                                         Rating:                 A -
                                         MPAA Rating:        PG
                                         Running time:       81 mins
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.